Cruising with Becky, Caviar of the Pacific

19 09.248S 178 32.430E

Posting by Barb:

Caviar of the Pacific – Balolo, what is it? Well Suki described it as a mass of wriggling, delectable worms that rise en masse to the surface during the third quarter of the moon, once or twice a year. DSC_6917Carlos and Elisabeta from S/V Barca Pulita, the only other cruising boat in Fulaga while we were there,  had experienced this in previous years. They said that the water around their  boat transformed into a sea of writhing, squirming worms. Once I did have internet , I researched this phenomena, and learned that the timing of the spawning is not quite understood but scientists believe it may be associated with rising sea temperatures, moon tides, length of daylight, conditions of the sea and observations of the weather. DSC_6913Balolo wasn’t something that Becky was anxious to try but Suki said not to worry he would make a Balolo pizza for Becky in the Lovo!!

As the Balolo would normally rise in the reef but outside the lagoon where we could not navigate with the boat, Ba explained to us where to go with the dinghy. A place called the ‘swimming pool’. We would have to be there just before  sunrise as once the sun was out the Balolo would disintegrate. We set the alarm for four in the morning and got in the dinghy with buckets and containers to catch the Balolo. DSC_6911It was a 10 minute dinghy ride and a 10 minute walk. We had our wet suits on but it was still a chilly dinghy ride in the dark. We walked to the swimming pool and waited as the sun rose. But on this third quarter moon there would not be any Balolo rising. It will probably happen on the next third quarter of the moon but unfortunately we will not be here in Fulaga to experience that natural phenomenon. As simple as life is here the complexity of nature is astounding and every day we get to be part of the wonderment or at least learn a little more about it!

Cruising with Becky, Cannibalism in Fiji

Cannibalism in Fiji

19 08.864S 178 33.872E

Posting by Barb:

DSC_4941The word ‘Cannibalism’ itself creates an eerie feeling. But it is a fact that cannibalism was a part of life in Fiji hundreds of years ago. This practice of cannibalism increased during the early part of the 19th century and can around the same time ‘white man’ arrived. In the case of some tribes, the prime motive may have been revenge; at another, simply their appetite! or some of both. Our encounter with the locals in the Northern Lau had already given us insight as to how the locals felt about their history and in jest they would talk about eating each other.

From reading other blogs and talking to other cruisers that had visited Fulaga we had learned that there was a cave which held the remains of human bones. So we decided to ask Suki, our host, whether he knew of such a place. He of course did and offered to take us there. After a half hour walk up a somewhat steep incline we arrived at the open ‘gravesite’.DSC_4943-1 Suki gave us the approval to touch and explore the remains. As I picked up the human skull I got this unnerving feeling as I looked into the eye sockets of what once used to be a human being. We wondered how old the remains were and we were tempted to take a sampling of the bones for DNA testing. Just a thought, well we really did entertain that idea! Suki didn’t offer much of an explanation as to the origin of the bones  and I am not sure if it was because he didn’t know or whether it was better left up to our imagination.

From there Suki gave us a quick tour of the town. On the way back  to his home I noticed a hole dug in the beach that was obviously the size of a coffin. I pointed it out to Becky and she jokingly remarked ‘maybe it was for us!!’  . 

Later, after talking to our cruising friends in ‘Barco Punita’ we learned that the people in Fulaga were preparing for a funeral for a local that had died and the funeral was to take place ‘tomorrow’. Was he to be buried in the unmarked grave we saw on the beach?

Makogai, Fiji

September 29 – October 2, 2014

17 26.315 S 178 57.192 E

Posting by Barb:

After spending a little over a week in Vuda Point Marina we started to make our way to Savusavu where Becky, Dennis’ daughter, would be arriving after a long flight from Minneapolis. Savusavu seemed to provide a better tack for sailing to Fulaga, a must see for us before leaving Fiji. We decided to make a stop in Makogai and Namena on the way to Savusavu. I will say that Makogai is a fairly deep anchorage, i.e. 80 feet of water and not great holding.

DSC_4752Makogai is a beautiful little island that is rich in history. It was a successful leprosarium from 1911 to 1969 with 4,185 patients landing and 2,300 returned to full health. It closed after Dapsone, a  sulpha drug, was discovered as a cure for leprosy and patients were finally effectively treated and released. DSC_6845We learned that not only were the lepers segregated to the island of Makogai but they were then further segregated to separate villages for Fijians, Indians and other Pacific Islanders and then segregated again to separate dorms for the women and for the men. We also learned that sex among the patients was  not allowed and it was an offense that resulted in prison incarceration.  After completing the required ‘quicky’ sevusevu we toured the island and explored many of the ruins. I was expecting to have a gloomy feeling as I thought about the people that were sent here with no hope in the future of being re-united with their families and the imminent life of pain, disfigurement and loneliness. I was however surprised by the extent of the infrastructure based on theDSC_4707-1 ruins that were left and we realized that people here were well taken care of and the town included schools, hospitals, churches and even a movie theatre. Catholic nuns from France also lived in Makogai and they looked after the people physically, emotionally and spiritually. In one of the ruins Dennis found a little bronze lock still attached to a door and he managed to pry it loose and take it back to the boat. It will be a fixture in a future home.

In 2011, Makogai officially became a Mariculture Centre. As per information I obtained from the Fiji website:

“One of the main projects that the team of fisheries officers based here work on, is culturing giant clams (Tridacna). Once in abundance on Fiji’s reefs, many species have been overharvested and current levels are low. The adductor muscle is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in China, which coupled with the harvesting of clams for food, shells and the aquarium trade – it is unsurprising that they have found themselves on the IUCN’s vulnerable list. In the 1980s an Australian-funded project began culturing them at Makogai – and thousands have since been transplanted to various parts of Fiji”

It was interesting to walk through the primitive tanks were the baby clams and turtles were being nurtured to maturity. I also saw many turtles and large clams during a snorkel swim close to the boat.

DSC_6785DSC_4678DSC_4703During our stay , a ‘Dive Specific’ cruise ship with about 20 people stopped in for a day and this gave the little village on the other side of the island an opportunity to provide the tourists with entertainment. They organized a Meke and we were invited to attend. It was an evening of Kava drinking, children doing traditional dancing dressed in colorful costumes to acoustic, rhythmic music sung by their parents. Once the children were finished with their show then the music continued and the locals took turns dancing with us.  It was our first Meka in Fiji and we never expected that in Makogai. In appreciation, the tourists donated about $400 for the school.

DSC_6827DSC_4766We did a 10 km walk to the village on the other side of the island. We stopped on the way and had some fun with the camera taking pictures of bugs, frogs and any other wildlife we came across. At the village we visited the school. It was well maintained and had a very nice library with a large supply of children’s books all in English. I was intrigued by the notice on the bulletin board which outlined the Do’s and Don’ts. I included the picture and it is worthwhile to enlarge it and read the “Do’s, Don’ts, Should, Report and Watch Out” postings to get an appreciation of the expectations of the kids and teachers.DSC_6811

On our return hike we met a woman sitting on the path with a machete in her hand looking a little lost and forlorn. Dennis of course sat next to her and asked if everything was ok. She started to cry and explained that she had to hide from her husband so that he would not beat her and that she would go home in a little while after he calmed down. She indicated that she had family on the other side of the island but we got the feeling that she considered this as part of life, it was her problem to deal with and her family would expect her to deal with it. We sat with her for a while and then had to leave as it was only an hour from sunset and we still had a 10k hike back. We gave her  a box of tea bags and a box of cookies that I had in my pack for return gifts when people gave us free fruit, etc. It was a little something that made her smile, if only for a minute. It left me sad and powerless to help.

The visit to the school and the encounter with the local lady gave us a new awareness of the Fijian culture, the good and the bad.


Cruising with Mike and Allison – Waya Island, Octopus resort, Fiji

August 19 – August 20, 2014

17 16.693 S 177 06.235 E

Posting by Barb:

Our next anchorage was at Waya, Octopus Resort. It was the second time for Denny and me so Mike and Ally took the dinghy and headed into shore. Dinghy handling is something they had to learn along with knot tying. We emphasized that it was their responsibility to ensure that the dinghy was safe, basically our only mode of transportation off the boat.DSC_6400 IMG_3483They enjoyed the pool at the Octopus resort, we joined them for lunch and Happy hour drinks. It was a great place to relax. Allison even went in for an early hour of Yoga. We hiked over the hill to the village on the northern bay and met Nathan, who agreed to take us on the 3 hour return hike to the point that overlooks the Northern Yasawas. We had heard that it was a tough hike so we wanted to do it early enough so that we avoided the hot, hot mid-day sun. So we agreed to meet him at 7 in the morning. So 6:30 the next day we were in the dinghy heading to shore.DSC_6495

DSC_6420IMG_3703At 7 we were by the village and met up with Nathan. It was a tough hike. It was very hard for Denny and I to keep up with the 20 something young ones and Nathan who ran up hill barefoot. We found it easier if they went ahead and we could just go at our own pace. We tracked through pig farms, plantations, climbed some rock outcroppings and continued up and up hill for an hour. It was tough!! We had to do a 50 foot DSC_6415climb up a steep rock incline to get to the very top and what a view we had. Let the pictures on our photo album speak for themselves. Allison did say that was also a highlight for her.   DSC_6413 

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Nanuya Sewa Island, aka Blue Lagoon, Fiji

August 16 – 17, 2014

16 56.797 S 177 22.028 E

Posting by Barb:

From the caves we went to the location where the rest of Blue Lagoon movie was filmed. It is a very, calm anchorage, which is hard to find in the Yasawas. The first night there we booked IMG_3566ourselves in for a Fijian dinner and Fire Dance show at a nearby resort. The reservation included a water taxi ride to and from the resort. We got all dressed up and waited for taxi. We waited and waited and then came to the realization that it was going to be a ‘no show’. As an alternate plan we decided to go for dinner at the Nanuya resort. We stopped to say hi to our new found friends, cruisers on the yacht from Mexico, Don Leon, super nice people. They invited us to come aboard. They offered Mike and Allison Mezcal, a cheaper form of tequila and that was the end of going anywhere. Pepe brought out a cigar for Mike and from that point Mike referred to Pepe as his buddy and gave him the warm Newfoundland buddy hug.

We did a quick visit of the resort on Nanuya and had a great burger lunch which was accompanied DSC_6282with cold greasy French fries. One of the recommended hikes was theDSC_6292 cross island tour which took us through some of the plantations and the final destination was Lo’s tea House, famous for appearing in Lonely planet. We had cold, expensive drinks and banana bread (a little dry and probably day old leftovers from the batch made for the tourists on the Blue Lagoon cruise ship which had just left).IMG_3586DSC_6318

  On Sunday we went to the church service at nearby village of Sese on Matacawa Levu. They had the usual harmonious singing and then there were a couple of testimonials by 2 Fiji ex-pats (chief’s son working for the UN in NY and a close relative to the chief, enlisted in the army and stationed in Afghanistan). They were there to be with the chief who had a stroke and was not doing well. They did the testimonials in English (for us) and  in Fijian which resulted in a much longer church service. I am not sure the locals, especially the kids who were home for a school holiday appreciated the extension of the normally 1 hour service to 2 ½ hours so that we could understand the testimonials. I am not sure Mike and Allison quite appreciated it either due to the slight hangover they had. The theme of the service was that although the village was very poor, anybody can do great things with ‘hard work’. I am not sure the well-known“it’s Fiji time” culture quite fit the vision of these extraordinary people.  But it was great that our crew, the ‘young ones’, could experience the musicality of the Fijian people who sing in harmony without any instruments, although some much louder than others!  

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Sawa-I-Lau Island, Fiji

August 14 –  15, 2014

16 50.825 S 177 28.059 E

Posting by Barb:

Sawa-I-Lau was the most northerly anchorage for this trip. The main attraction was the caves which had been a film location for the 1980’s movie the  ‘Blue Lagoon’, with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. I confess, Denny and I did watch the simply awful movie tDSC_6246o appreciate the Blue Lagoon scenery and the caves that we would visit in Fiji. Not something I would recommend anybody do as it is a painful 2 hours of movie time. We did our first and only Sevu Sevu. We went to the town closest to the caves but it turned that it was not the town that administers the caves. It was Mike’s and Allison’s first and only Sevu Sevu and it was a disappointment. The chief,  who was lying down on his mat, barely sat up to greet us, clapped once and  then told us we were welcome and that we could go. He wasn’t even interested or bothered with some cordial small talk. It is definitely a tradition that is dying. We walked around a little and took pictures of the interesting limestone formations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly in the morning we got ready to visit the caves. We waited for the hoardes of tourist boats to leave and then headed in when it was a little quieter. It cost OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA$100 Fijian for the four of us to enter the  caves and get a guided tour. The first cave had lots of light and we took pictures of ourselves of the rock ledge where the ‘sexually explicit’ Blue Lagoon scene was filmed! The second cave required a 10 – 20 second snorkel under water to the next cave that had no natural light. So that represents two things that give me anxiety, dark tight spaces and an underwater snorkel without being able to pop up for air at a whim. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to Ally, Mike and Denny’s encouragement I faced my apprehension and did the short underwater journey to the adjacent cave. A guide was there at both ends and all I had to do was follow the light at the other end. It was worth it to swim in the dark, eerie cave that has never seen sunlight. Another snorkeling experience for all of us!!

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Drawaqua Island, Fiji

August 11, 2014 – August 13, 2014

17 10.308 S 177 11.183 E

Posting by Barb:

We anchored close to the Manta Ray resort near Drawaqua Island. We could feel that there was a strong current underneath the boat but our anchor could hold us. Our first stop was the dive shop at the Barefoot Resort. There we met Sam, a local working there, who seemed to be very excited to talk about the Mantas that feed in the narrow passage between Navitiy Island and Drawaqua Island. The Mantas come every year from June to October. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey are lazy feeders and they show up during high tide and float the current with their mouths open, feeding on plankton. Sam showed us where to go with the dinghy and then explained that it would have to be a dinghy float down the pass as the current would be very strong. So at 6:30 in the morning, at a full moon high tide, we did our first of many float passes with Denny running the dinghy , although I did have a turn at the dinghy so that Denny could swim with the Mantas as well. The current was very strong and often the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMantas would do a quick pass under us and sometimes they would come directly towards us and then do OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa dive to avoid us. DSC_4358Allison experienced a moment where the Mantas did circles around her in a feeding frenzy along with a school of little fish which seemed to have dislocated their jaws to open them as wide as they could to filter in all the plankton.  At 8 in the morning the resort boats showed up with the tourists and then it was a fury of fins and snorkels. The Mantas seemed to patiently navigate themselves around the mayhem. The Manta Ray snorkel was probably one of the highlights for Mike and Ally.   

We celebrated my birthday at the Barefoot Resort with a lovely dinner on the beach and a harmonic Happy Birthday chorus by the staff at the end of dinner. DSC_6181We hiked the Barefoot Hike which took us to a scenic lookout of the boats in the anchorage. DSC_6167We also enjoyed a couple of Happy hours at the Manta Ray resort on the Northern point of Manuva Balavu Island where we did another small hike to explore the interesting rock shoreline. We took a day to sail to Viwa Island for a snorkel but it was too windy when we got there so we had to return to Navadra. But on the way we did catch 3 Spanish mackerel and a Dorado, which Allison cleaned and filleted (well Denny cleaned the Dorado as Allison found the big fish a little daunting).  We also caught a Skip Jack tuna the next day and that was the last fish we caught in Fiji to date!!DSC_6214IMG_3523

Yalobi Bay, Waya Island, Fiji

July 30, 2014 – August 3, 2014

17 18.608 S 177 07.289 E

Posting by Barb:

DSC_6012-1The village of Yalobi perfectly fits the quote “an island of calm in the sea of craziness that can be the modern world”. As we brought our dinghy to shore we were greeted by a couple of young children with big smiles. They brought uDSC_6059s to where their mom was sitting with a display of her local art spread out on a mat. She encouraged us to buy her sea shell necklaces and made us promise that she would be our guide if we wanted to do any hikes near the village. She was very forthright and made it very clear that visiting cruisers was a large part of their income. After a cup of tea and a chat with French cruisers the 3 pre-school children led us to the chief Tom’s house. They were fighting to hold my hand, happy with the “Lollies” that I had pulled out of DSC_6062my backpack and given to them. The Sevu Sevu with Chief Tom was a repeat of the Daliconi village. It appears that the traditional Kava drinking ceremonies are slowly vanishing. Maybe we will get to experience this in the more remote villages.  

While in Yalobi, we did two hikes with different guides and with a few of the other cruisers. Of course one hike took us to another lookout, the other hike took us to a cave that the locals use to take shelter in during cyclones. It wasn’t a deep cave but well protected. During the last cyclone, the locals squeezed themselves into the cave for 2 days! After each cyclone the locals go back to the village and start the rebuilding process and this is something that they accept as a way of life.


The highlight of our stay in Yalobi was the visit to the Primary school. The school is attended by the children of Yalobi and two other neighboring villages. The 200 + kids that range from ages 6 -14 stay in dormitories near the school. The kids start school at 8 in the morning and after school they all have to do ½ hour of chores which includes washing clothes by hand. On Friday afternoon’s they go home and come back on Sunday. Each village is responsible to provide the funds and or food for a year. The families of Yalobi each take turns preparing the food for one week. There are about 50 families so each family would have a turn at least once a year. As we left the school grounds some of the children followed us and wanted us to take pictures of them as they did handstands. They would run back and gather around me as they all tried to look at the pictures on my camera. They would each squeal as they spotted themselves in the picture. Such joy from such a simple act!!DSC_6072DSC_6070DSC_6094

We had our first meal of crayfish and  shared a few happy hours and meals with Robin and Jennifer on Katydid and Zig and Barbara on Sorceress. It was great to share an anchorage with these special people!DSC_6018-1

Mana Island, Fiji

July 25, 2014 – July 27, 2014

17 40.620 S 177 06.431 E

Posting by Barb

It was going to be great to get out of the marina and go somewhere where the water is clean and we can see the fish swimming alongside the boat. We planned to go to a little island nearby called Mana. We were trying not to go to the anchorages that we will be going to with my daughter Allison and her boyfriend Mike.

As soon as we hoisted the main sail, a little tear in the sail started to get bigger. We triple reefed the main but we realized we would have to return to Vuda Marina a little earlier than planned  to repair it. In NZ we will have to look into getting a new sail. At this rate, we will soon have an old boat with all new parts!!

DSC_5886To get inside the reef on Mana Island we had to navigate through a very narrow channel. We went in at low tide and at one point we had barely a foot below the keel and no room to turn the boat and go back out. But we made it through safely. The reef protected us somewhat from the swell but it was very windy and not good for snorkeling. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe island had one small village, 3 backpackers, an exclusive resort and one large resort. Most of the people arrived on the island on a large Catamaran ferry, the ‘Tiger IV’, which made 3 daily stops at a large dock nearby our boat.

On our first hike around the island, we visited the resort facilities. It ranged from a 2 star backpackers resort to a 4 star large resort. We ate at the Backpackers as we thought it would offer some local food rather than the tourist fanfare. It was a disappointment but the entertainment was great. My second hike took me to a nice lookout. DSC_5892Once at the top  I was entertained by a little Woodswallow bird that seemed keen on landing on my head. From there, the trail took me to a very exclusive resort where I DSC_5912was allowed to take a few pictures but then I was ushered on and out of the resort. As I walked along the shoreline on a low tide I spotted a couple of Banded Sea Krait snakes trying to slither up the rock ledge looking for a place to hide. They are deadly venomous but are not killers. Their mouths are so small they DSC_5933would have a difficult time taking a bite unless I stuck my pinky finger in their mouth and that won’t happen. I also spotted a gray heron and he allowed me to get fairly close for a picture. Mana Island was great for walking and a great place to pretend we were tourists  but it was not a good place to go snorkeling because of the wind so we decided it was time to move to the next anchorage, wherever that may be.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSC_5905

NZ South Island – Heaphy Track

Posting by Barb:

I have always been an avid hiker and was fortunate to live in beautiful Newfoundland, Canada where I was able to hike most of 265 km of the well known, scenic shore ‘East Coast’  trail . The trail took me to the outermost reaches of North America. So I could not be in New Zealand and not do at least one of the 9 ‘Great Tramps’. New Zealand Kiwis refer to hiking as tramping.

DSC_4712DSC_4561We decided to do the 78.4 km Heaphy track as it offered diverse scenery including beech forest,  tussock grasslands, lush forests, nikau palms and white beaches.

Due to some unforeseen transportation logistics as a result of us not doing our homework prior to booking the hike, we did the tramp in 5 days versus  the suggested 3-4 days. As per the website; The Heaphy Track is not a circuit track; the start/end of the track are 463 km apart by road so we had to arrange for transportation and could only book seats on a bus 5 days after the start of our tramp.

I was a little apprehensive about carrying a backpack load for 5 days of ‘tramping’ but we managed to keep our carrying weight to less than 25 kg, thanks to our Kiwi scroggin otherwise known as tasty freeze dried foods. Besides our food we carried our water bladders, warm clothes, rain coat, sleeping bag and of course our cameras.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) offer night accommodations in communal huts for a small fee. The huts  are well equipped with cooking facilities,  bunk beds and pot belly coal stove for the cool nights. So each day we hiked to our designated, pre-booked hut and shared the living space with other hikers from a variety of nationalities and personalities.


There was a Dutch girl (not included in the above picture) that came ready to do the Track with a day pack (i.e. minimal food, n0 additional warm clothing, no raincoat, and no sleeping bag).  Luckily the weather cooperated and she finished the tramp safely. On the other extreme there was a group of 5 NZ friends (also not included in the above picture) all working with the same ‘Construction Company’ that came well supplied with steaks and other fine meals and a vast supply of alcoholic indulgences. I am certain their packs were a lot heavier than 25 kg. We weren’t sure if they were actually going to be able to complete the tramp but in 3 days they were out, leaving behind a trail of stories about the ‘drunken Neanderthals’ , as they were aptly nicknamed by the DOC wardens and other trampers.

DSC_4550-1We did manage to have 2 of the 5 huts to  ourselves.

One of the huts was very small and cozy and instead of the large communal kitchen it had a large fireplace with a pot to cook food over the fire. We planned a romantic night but I was dead to the world before Dennis had the fire going.






The extra 2 days tramping  time that we had allowed us to do a few side trips; one that took us to the top of the world with a fantastic scenic view, another that took us splunking in an ‘off the beaten track’ cave and another that took us to a place for a refreshing skinny dip. DSC_4653

The Heaphy Track brochure highlights the possibility of finding carnivorous land snails and kiwis.  We did find the Powelliphanta snail with a shell that was about 3 inches long and heard but did not see a Kiwi. More pictures of our ‘tramp’ are posted in our photo album.